Through the Smoke
We walked over the threshold, myself going just ahead of Dodger, the sound of our BA rasped loudly, along with the roaring flames, and jets of water pouring through the windows. Dark smoke flowed through the hallway in front of us, clouding our view like a thick fog, flickering orange light from the flames, reflecting on the walls.
“Miss Landon?” I called out as loud as I could, the mask muffling my voice slightly. “Sandra?” I called again.
“Sandra? Make a noise if you can hear us.” Dodger called behind me.
“She could be anywhere, with this smoke, we have to move fast.” I added, walking forward, and nearing the living room, which seemed to be the source of the fire.
The heat of the flames got more and more intense as we neared them, sweat began to form on my skin, running down my temple.
“Rebel, how’s the situation inside?” I heard Alex’s voice come across the radio.
“Fire is mostly confined to the living room Sub, we’ve got heavy smoke, bad visibility, but the flames are nearly under control.”
“Any sign of the woman?”
“Negative.” I replied, me and Dodger looking around the room, scanning every inch and moving on down the hall into the kitchen.
We moved as fast as we could, still remaining careful through the smouldering house.
“Downstairs, clear. Moving upstairs now Sub, visibility even worse up here. Still no sign.” Dodger’s words rang out behind me as we climbed the stairs.
My eyes narrowed, peering through the heavy black cloud, just about able to make out the doors on the other side of the narrow hallway. The small space made it so that the smoke had filled the area. Three doors were ahead, all closed.
“Looks like the odds aren’t playing fair today.” Dodger shouted out.
“You aren’t fucking kidding. C’mon.”
There was no reply, no sounds or anything to indicate the presence of anyone. We moved to the nearest door, throwing it open to find a bathroom, a haze of smoke filled the room that had clearly made it under the door, another plume following us inside as we did a quick check.
“Bathroom, clear.” I reported, having checked the last part of the room.
Dodger hurried to the next one, he tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Sandra, if you’re in there, move away from the door.”
He stepped back, lifting his leg, and gave the door a hard kick. It rattled in the frame, but still didn’t budge. He repeated the motion, this time the door opened, just a little at first, something clearly blocking the other side.
“Rebel! I think she’s in here.”
“Right here man. Together.” I said, taking a place beside him and helping him push it further open.
“What’s going on in there?” Alex’s voice rang out through the radio again.
“We think we’ve found her Sub, upstairs bedroom, but the door’s jammed.” I reported back through gritted teeth, giving the door another hard shove with Dodger.
“Do you need further assistance?”
“You hit high, I’ll get low.” I said, looking up at Dodger as I sunk to the floor. “On three, okay?” I asked bracing my shoulder against the lower side of the door.
Dodger nodded in agreement, Alex’s voice coming across the radio once more.
“Firefighter Knight? Do you need assistance?”
I ignored his question, focusing my attention on the task at hand. Mine and Dodger’s eyes met, as I counted.
“One… Two… Three!” I shouted, both of us launched our weight at the door, which instantly burst open the rest of the way, the sound of shattering wood, now adding to the noise inside the building.
I heard the radio crackle once more as Alex went to speak, and I intercepted.
“Negative Sub, we’re in.”
Jumping back to my feet, I followed Dodger’s form through the dark and smokey bedroom. A now battered, small shelving unit lay on its side, with a few other items of furniture, clearly made into a barricade, supposedly to keep the door safely closed.
“I’ve got her!”
I heard Dodger’s shout, and saw him bend down on the other side of the bed.
“Sandra? Can you hear me?” He called to her, before scooping her up into his arms.
“We’ve located the woman, she’s unconscious. We need paramedics on standby. We’re coming out.” I reported back.
“Good job, paramedics are on hand.”
“Come on, let’s get her out of here.”
He rose to his feet and followed me back out onto the landing, then down the stairs. The flames were nearly extinguished by the time we reached the front door. The jets still blasting water through the windows as we rushed past Sam, reaching the waiting paramedics. Dodger gently placed her unconscious form on the stretcher, and they immediately began working on her. Pulling off our masks, we turned towards the house, the smoke still flooding from the building, now lessening as the last of the flames were extinguished.
The drive back was much more rowdy than the way there. By the time we pulled into the station, everyone was in high spirits. We regrouped on the forecourt, most of us wearing a decent amount of soot across our skin, and a strong smell of smoke tainting the otherwise fresh air.
“Alright guys, go get cleaned up, then I want the appliances given the once over before dinner.” Alex called after us, as we made our way towards the stairs.
A loud groan emitted from us as a collective group. Each of us starving hungry by now and wanting nothing more than to shower and then tuck into a hot meal.
“Yes, Sub.” We replied, taking the steps two at a time.
The men’s shower room was an open plan, fully tiled room, with individual cubicles lined up along each wall. It soon filled with steam as we all scrubbed up, the hot water from multiple showers making it seem more like a sauna than a bathroom. The water was a welcome relief as it flowed over me. I grabbed my shower gel from the shelf on the wall, squeezing some of the dark blue liquid onto my hands and washing the black soot and sweat from my skin. I could hear the others talking away, but I tuned them out, tilting my head back and closing my eyes, letting the water cascade over my face. I rubbed my hands up from my jaw to my forehead and back again, the droplets splashing against my lips. I was just rinsing the shampoo from my hair when I heard my name being called.
“Yeah?” I shouted out, tilting my head back under the falling water, roughly raking my fingers through my hair to rid it of the suds.
“Have you heard anymore about that new recruit?” Will’s voice replied.
“No, just that they’re transferring here sometime this week.”
I switched off the shower, and wrapped a soft black towel around my hips, leaving the cubicle and joining the others by the lockers.
“Cain?” Sam called out, sitting down on the bench and rubbing a towel through his hair. “You got anymore info for us?”
“I heard a rumour that it’s a woman.” He answered, rounding the corner, water running down his chest and disappearing into the towel around his hips.
“You should tell Pix that. Might get you out of the dog house.” I laughed picking up a spare towel from my locker and roughly drying my hair.
“Dog house? What did you do?” Dodger asked with a smirk.
Cain scowled at him, then walked on, stopping in front of his locker and pulling out a can of deodorant.
“I agreed to your night out.”
Dodger was about to reply as Alex walked into the room.
“Come on lads, this is work, not a social club. Get moving.” He said firmly.
“Sub.” We answered as a group, watching his retreating back.
We spent the next couple of hours scrubbing the appliances and sorting the equipment to Alex’s standards before he finally approved our break for dinner. When we made it back upstairs, the delicious smell of food was wafting from the canteen. My stomach growled with hunger as we went inside, seeing the table already laid, and the sound of a radio playing loudly, humming coming from the kitchen.
“Alright Heidi? what’s for dinner?” Jax called out cheerily, crossing to the serving hatch and leaning against it, his arms folded against the metal surface.
A vibrant laugh sounded behind the wall as I came to a stop behind him, and then a steaming hot, glass dish of Cottage Pie landed in front of us, as our Station Cook, Heidi, rose to her feet behind the counter.
“I’ve never known someone eat as much as you Jax.” She said, laying out plates next to the dish.
“Ah, well he needs the extra food to fuel his big mouth.” Sam teased, joining the queue for food.
Jax rolled his eyes as I bumped his shoulder and the others began to laugh.
“Don’t listen to them Caleb,” Heidi said to Jax, serving up a sizable chunk onto one of the plates and passing it to him. “Your mouth isn’t half as big as Dodger’s, that’s how he’s always putting his foot in it.”
“Hey!” Dodger shouted from the back as everyone laughed. “What is this? Gang up on Dodge day?”
“You just make it too easy.” I shrugged, taking the next plate that Heidi held out, and following Jax to the table.
Heidi was like the Watch mom, a kind woman in her early forties, who used to have a catering company, before becoming a mother and deciding to take this job on so that she could spend more time with her kids. She was the type of woman you could talk to about anything and was always there for all of us. Her brilliant sense of humour and fun personality fitted in well with us all on Red Watch, and she was a much loved part of the family. As the rest of the Watch sat down, Heidi came out from the kitchen, and took a plate of her own, setting it at the table next to Pixie. She pulled the hairnet off, letting her long black hair fall free, framing her beautiful, elegant face, and took her apron off, uncovering her casual green blouse, and dark skinny jeans. She dusted herself down, knocking some stray flour from her bare arms and sat down, tucking in as the door opened and Alex walked in, trailed by our Station Officer, Tom Steele, and a woman I’d never seen before.
“Red Watch.” Alex started, looking around at us all.
“Sub.” Our response rumbled around the table, everyone pausing, their cutlery landing on their plates.
“Sorry to interrupt dinner Heidi,” Began Tom.
“Not a problem.” She replied, with a dismissive wave of her hand.
He nodded gratefully at her, then addressed us once more.
“As you know, we recently had one of our Watch transfer, which has left us with a space to be filled. So, I’d like you to meet the newest member of Red Watch.” He said, turning to the mystery woman. “Lacey Rose.”